By Brooklyn Reader

October 20, 2014, 10:28 am

 

Gentrification in Brooklyn Photo: globalfusionproductions.com

Gentrification in Brooklyn
Photo: globalfusionproductions.com

If there was ever a more polarizing topic in Bedford-Stuyvesant these days, it is the subject of gentrification.

The public response to a recent New York Daily News editorial entitled, “Goodbye, my Bed-Stuy,” by Bed-Stuy resident Ron Howell is the perfect example of how divided the community feels about the causes and effects of gentrification on a neighborhood.

Howell is the grandson of Bertram L. Baker, the first black elected to the State Legislature from Brooklyn, representing the Bedford-Stuyvesant section. Baker was co-sponsor of the state’s fair-housing law, the Metcalf- Baker Act, in 1969.

In the Daily News editorial, Howell waxes poetic about the beauty of Bedford-Stuyvesant of the 50s and 60s and how, in the last 20 years, silent backers in politics and real estate have worked with banks to accelerate property value increases whereby hordes of longtime residents are being priced out of the neighborhood.

These recent progressive demographic changes and resulting shifts in culture and cost of living have unabashedly led him to conclude that the Bed-Stuy he has always known has left, never to return.

Although these growing sentiments clearly are shared by many of the neighborhood’s longtime residents, what also seems to be growing with even more vigor are the voices of dissent by those who feel that complainers of gentrification need to get over it and be thankful for the changes.

A scan of the comments from the article provides keen insight on the pushback. Some argue that gentrification is a natural cycle of neighborhood development, an historical occurrence– a fact, they feel, it’s time that older residents need to finally acknowledge and accept:

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They feel that Bedford-Stuyvesant was little more than a neighborhood plagued by crime and thuggery, a place where no one truly wanted to live before:

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Even more say that gentrification has only served to revive the neighborhood, make it more attractive:

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Do you feel these commenters who support gentrification have some valid points?

Was Bedford-Stuyvesant a “hell hole,” (as one commenter put it), before? And is time that residents begin to acknowledge the merits of gentrification as a natural, sociological shift that has persisted throughout history and that, in more ways than not, serves to improve a neighborhood overall?

What are your thoughts?


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2 Responses

  1. Stefanie

    I believe the previous comments in support of gentrification have a limited view of what it takes to build community and a society that is humane and just for everyone. Just because the developments we see in Bed-Stuy and most of Brooklyn are familiar to many of us because we have watched them happen in the past does not mean they are inevitable or that anyone who speaks out against rampant, out of control gentrification is against economic growth. If equity is something we value then prosperity must be available to everyone. People with history and deep roots in a neighborhood do not have to be driven out in order for that neighborhood to become a better, safer, cleaner place to live. We need to break the strangle hold of the real estate industry on our city and find the will and collectively develop the means to restore communities that are inclusive yet respectful of the history, culture, imagination, talent and love that make them attractive places to live.

    Reply
  2. Su

    I think it’s inflammatory and counter-productive to illustrate this story with an image of a large group of young white people. I’m not a fool, I know that a lot of young white people have moved into B-S in recent years. But my partner and I are older white people (late 50’s) and we moved here because we were forced financially out of a different neighborhood where rezoning pushed out the majority of former residents—due to a planned invasion by city government, not just a random influx of richer people. So for one thing, “gentrification” happens for a lot of reasons; it isn’t always just a chance invasion by individuals, and this city under Bloomberg saw a lot of the more planned gentrifying that’s been happening. Hopefully it will be different under DiBlasio.
    But also I know a bunch of young black and other non-white people who have moved in as renters, and a good number of older, professional black and other non-whites who have bought and moved into B-S in the last five years. This isn’t just a matter of race or ethnic change, it’s also a matter of class, and it helps to look at both kinds of change, and not always speak in such simple, binary ways about a complex situations. There are blacks (and Asians and Hispanics and others) who are investing in homes here and by doing so aren’t by definition making it that others are being thrown out. Or put another way, if anyone is going to assume that the presence of lots of new white people is creating the crisis, then one has to also open one’s eyes to the presence of a new group of black and other non-white people.
    And as far as I know, from being here for over five years, there are also many middle class, home-owning blacks in B-S who aren’t moving out, who are glad that crime has decreased and that their property values are more stable. To always paint a picture of this neighborhood as just populated by desperately poor blacks who are being thrown out is to disregard and disrespect the many hard-working, stable black families and home owners who have made and continue to make this neighborhood a good place for them to live and who (from my experience on my own block) welcome new tenants or home owners, of whatever color, if they are people who contribute to the neighborhood and the block, who work to keep its character and to strengthen the good things about it.

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